Tok Pisin

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Tok Pisin (pronounced /ˌtɔːk ˈpɪsɪn/ in English, locally [ˌtokpiˈsin]) is a creole spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. It is an official language of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in that country. In parts of Western, Gulf, Central, Oro Province and Milne Bay Provinces, however, the use of Tok Pisin has a shorter history, and is less universal, especially among older people.

Between five and six million people use Tok Pisin to some degree, although by no means all of these speak it well. Between one and two million are exposed to it as a first language, in particular the children of parents or grandparents originally speaking different vernaculars (say, a mother from Madang and a father from Rabaul). Urban families in particular, and those of police and defence force members, often communicate between themselves in Tok Pisin, either never gaining fluency in a vernacular ("tok ples"), or learning a vernacular as a second (or third) language, after Tok Pisin (and possibly English). Perhaps one million people now use Tok Pisin as a primary language.

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Name

Tok is derived from English "talk", but has a wider application, also meaning "word", "speech", or "language". Pisin comes from English "pidgin".

While Tok Pisin is usually referred to under this name, it is also sometimes—though rarely—called New Guinea Pidgin or, in academic contexts, Melanesian Pidgin English or Neo-Melanesian. Given that Papua New Guinean anglophones almost invariably refer to Tok Pisin as Pidgin when speaking English,[1] it may be considered something of an affectation to call it Tok Pisin, much like referring to German and French as Deutsch and français in English. However, Tok Pisin is favoured by many professional linguists to avoid spreading the misconception that Tok Pisin is still a pidgin language. Although it was originally a pidgin, Tok Pisin is now considered a distinct language in its own right, because it is a first language for some people and not merely a lingua franca to facilitate communication with speakers of other languages.

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